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Honoring John McCain’s lifetime of public service, America mourns

The country’s top leaders mourned on Sunday news that Sen. John McCain, Republican leader and and two-time presidential candidate, died at his home in Arizona on Saturday. From the former director of the CIA David Petraeus to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they talked about his legacy of public service and commitment to values. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Good evening and thank you for joining us.

    Senator John McCain, the influential Arizona Republican senator and two-time presidential candidate, died yesterday at his home near Sedona, Arizona. He was 81 and had an aggressive brain cancer for the past year.

    Crowds lined the route as the hearse bearing his body traveled from his ranch to a Phoenix funeral home last night. In Washington, D.C., flags were lowered to half staff.

    And in Vietnam, where then-Navy pilot McCain was captive for more than five years as a prisoner of war, mourners placed flowers on a memorial honoring him. As senator, his political leadership was key in normalising relations between Vietnam and the U.S.

    John Sidney McCain III was born in 1936 on an American naval base, the son of a naval officer stationed in the Panama Canal zone.

    He went on to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland–following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather–who both served as four star admirals. McCain graduated in 1958 and became a navy pilot two years later.

    He volunteered for combat during the Vietnam war. In October of 1967 his plane was shot down over Hanoi, during a bombing mission. He was captured, beaten and tortured, and held as prisoner of war for five and a half years. In that time he tried to take his own life twice and signed a coerced confession. He refused an offer of early release after the Vietnamese learned that his father was a high ranking navy official.

    McCain was released in 1973, returning to the U.S. a hero.

    In 1982, McCain began what would be his decades-long political career, winning a seat in the U.S. Congress from his home state of Arizona twice.

    Four years later he was elected to the Senate where he remained for six terms.

    But his political career was not always successful. In 2000, he made his first presidential run, and lost to George W. Bush in the primaries.

  • JOHN MCCAIN:

    I know how to fight and I know how to make peace. I know who I am and what I want to do."

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In 2008 he ran again, this time winning the Republican nomination, choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, and then losing to Barack Obama.

  • JOHN MCCAIN:

    My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey. The american people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Throughout his long career in office, senator McCain continued to be a political "maverick."

    He opposed the use of torture during President George W. Bush's administration and sponsored an anti-torture bill that passed congress and was signed by President Bush in 2005.

  • PRESIDENT BUSH:

    Senator McCain has been a leader to make sure that the united states of america upholds the values of america as we fight and win this war on terror and we've been happy to work with him to achieve a common objective and that is to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture."

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In July 2017, after surgery to remove a blood clot in his eye revealed a malignant brain tumor, Sen. McCain made a dramatic return to the capitol for a late night vote against president trump's proposed legislation end to Obamacare. His vote defeated the bill.

    Before the vote, he addressed his colleagues.

  • JOHN MCCAIN:

    We're getting nothing done, my friends. we're getting nothing done! All we've really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the supreme court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. something has to be done. Make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. and I am so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege – for the honor – of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Mr. Trump frequently criticized and even insulted Sen. McCain both during the 2016 campaign and in office…last night he sent out a brief tweet that read, My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!

    In a statement, former President George W. Bush, who defeated McCain in his first presidential run, remembered him as a friend, saying, "Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled."

    And in his statement, President Barack Obama acknowledged his political differences with his former presidential opponent but said they shared "fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed."

    Today, Sen. McCain's colleagues recalled his military career, his courage, and his devotion to service.

  • DAVID PETRAEUS:

    A truly extraordinary giant of the senate and really of the country. He would not break faith with his fellow prisoners. He made sure that he got no special treatment because his father was the four-star commander of u.s. pacific command, in fact, at that time. Again, a real force in so many different ways, and always one who felt that serving a cause larger than self was the greatest of privileges.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    He leaves a legacy of service and courage. The courage, of course, we all came to know because of his time as a POW. But getting up every day and working as hard as he did for the people of Arizona and for the values he cherished was not easy."

  • SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

    He would quickly forgive and move on. And to see the good in his opponents, that is something that, particularly these days, we could use a lot more of. that's a lesson that he taught everyone.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The senator who served his country in politics and in the military was both outspoken and brave…even when he was being treated for brain cancer…and facing the possibility that he was nearing the end of his life…

  • JAKE TAPPER:

    How do you want the American people to remember you?

  • JOHN MCCAIN:

    He served this country. And not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope we can add, honorably.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Sen. John McCain's body will lie in state in Arizona's capitol, then in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. His funeral will be held at Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral. At his request, the eulogies will be delivered by former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. He will be buried at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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